Though the UFC won't permit Dominick Reyes to walk out for his main event against Jon Jones Saturday wearing a Kobe Bryan jersey due to its exclusive apparel deal with Reebok -- if you know of any LA Lakers jerseys branded as such, please let him know -- you can bet that the essence of the Black Mamba will be coursing through him Saturday.
Because from the beginning, the man challenging for the light heavyweight crown at UFC 247 has always sought to harness the awesome power of the Mamba Mentality the way a jedi channels the force.
"I pretty much stayed in bed most of the day," Reyes said at UFC 247's official media day last week, after learning of the tragic death of his favorite athlete and personal idol on Jan. 26. "It was really like almost losing a family member. I don't know, man. It sucks. It [expletive] sucks."
Reyes went on to explain that Bryant's relentless work ethic has been a singular influence on his own life and career, and helped shape him into the first athlete from his high school to earn a full football scholarship, one that took him all the way from Hesperia, California to SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island. So, with this being the first UFC's first pay-per-view main event since the Black Mamba's shocking passing, you can bet that Reyes isn't about to let this moment come and go without taking the fight to Jon Jones like No. 24 attacking the tin in crunch time -- win or lose.
"Kobe's mentality of 'nobody is gonna believe in you but you,' I've used that throughout my life," he said. "I made it to my university, [and now] I'm here on that philosophy. Nobody is gonna believe in you but you. Nobody is gonna work for you. Work when the lights are off, work when nobody is looking. That's what matters. That's what makes you a champion. Winning is everything. Oh, man. All of that is a huge part of why I'm here today."
Jon Jones famously describes his fighting style as a "look-see-do," a uniquely intuitive, adaptable kind of violence with no real weaknesses. But when he steps up to face Reyes Saturday night in Houston, it won't be in an Octagon against a mixed martial artist.
He'll be in a snakepit with a Mamba.